My child often wakes up at night

Does your child sometimes wake up at night? Then try to find out why that is when they are awake. Did they have a nightmare that scared them? Or maybe they simply didn’t feel like sleeping anymore?

My child wakes up scared

Does your child sometimes wake up scared and crying? Go to their bed and talk to them in a soothing voice. Switch on a nightlight and stay with them until they’ve calmed down. There’s no ‘ideal’ way to comfort your child. Choose what works best for your child. The following tips are worth a try:

  • Use the dream. Did your child dream about a ghost in their room? Scare it out of the window or come up with a different ending to their dream. Your child gets a magical sword to conquer the monster, for example.
  • Take your time to listen to your child. Your child may be too upset to talk straight away. Comfort them a little first and then ask them about their dream. What are they afraid of? Think of a solution together. You could leave the door ajar or switch on a nightlight. Tell your child you understand they are scared and explain to them there’s no need to be afraid anymore.
  • Stay calm. Children tend to calm down if they see you are calm too. Tell them you are confident that now they will be able to sleep without nightmares. They will be happy to hear that.


Try to comfort your child in their own bed. If you decide to take them to your bed, they will interpret that as “your room is safer than mine”.

Lisa, mother of Eef (3 years old):

Eef sometimes wakes up screaming. When I check on her, she is often sitting in her bed, crying. Sometimes she is so upset she can’t even tell me what is going on. When that happens, I hold her close to me and I try to calm her down. Once she’s calmed down, she usually manages to tell me what happened. In many cases, she’s had a nightmare. If she dreamt about a crocodile eating her, we push him out of her room. Then I leave the door ajar and I stay nearby until she’s fallen asleep again.

What can you do to reduce the risk of your child having nightmares?

  • Has anything bad happened during the day? Talk about it before bed time. That will help your child cope with it better. Wrap up with a fun topic, for example by telling them what the plans are for the next day. Or read a nice story. To find out more on talking about emotions, click here.
  • A bed time ritual can lower the risk of your child having nightmares because it creates a clear framework for your child.
  • A lack of sleep can make nightmares worse, so if you see that your child is overtired, let them have an afternoon nap or take them to bed earlier than usual for a few days.

My child wakes up but they are not scared

Does your child occasionally wake up at night without a clear reason? Then respond in a boring and neutral manner. If you give them a hug or propose to look at the stars together, or if you tell them to join them in your bed, you reward them with attention. In that case, chances are your child will be by your bedside again the following night. If you don’t mind your child sleeping in your bed, there’s no problem at all.


Think of how you will respond if your child wakes up in advance, so you don’t need to think about it at night and you will respond on auto-pilot.